Our portrait sewn up by Harriet Riddell

Last Sunday we had the absolute pleasure of meeting artist Harriet Riddell at the Hepsibah Gallery in Hammersmith. I love having this little gallery so close to home and I love art and I love sewing so you can imagine how heavenly it was to be sitting with my nearest and dearest, chatting with the artist herself whilst she effortlessly drew us with by means of a sewing machine!

Harriet Riddell portrait

Harriet is a performance mixed media artist specialising in observational drawings in stitch. Which means she won’t copy a photo – only live subjects need apply, and therefore each and every creation is an original. Oh, and she doesn’t do dogs!

And for someone who graduated only a year or so ago, she has a pretty damned fine back catalogue already. I found it tempting to sit on the face of Jeremy Irons who was beautifully stitched into the seat of a chair and mesmerised by the Mexican dancers with their intricately decorated dresses, on the wall. One of her brilliant projects involved sitting outside in the streets of Birmingham, stitching people sat on a bike whilst they pedalled to power her sewing machine. Just how cool is that?

Of course I quizzed her:

Q: What kind of thread do you use?

A: Just the usual 50p kind from Peckham market!

Q: What is this fabulous fabric you are using?

A: Heavy weight canvas from Goldhawk Rd!

Q: Do you ever get stressed from the queues that build up on your event?

A: Sometimes!

Q: How long without sewing can you go without getting ‘scratchy’

A: About a day or two!

Q: What do you love most about what you do?

A: Travelling the world and meeting wonderful people.

Q: What fancy stitch did you use to create the detailed embroidery on the Mexican dancers’ dresses?

A: Oh I never use those. Just do it freehand!

(I can honestly vouch for her being the coolest person ever!)

Even the reverse of this artwork is beautiful. I need to source a frame with double sided glass so it’s not hidden. Any ideas?

Harriet Riddell reverse

Of course the only downside to this wonderful sitting was that now I am hugely inspired by this lovely lady and I want to venture more down the ridiculously wonderful road of freehand embroidery too. Of course I have plenty nuff hours to fill, don’t I?

You will find plenty more examples of Harriet’s fascinating creations over at Institchyou.

And I leave you with some lovely shots that Mr O took whilst our youngest daughter took the first sitting:

Harriet Riddell Harriet_Riddell_2 Harriet_Riddell_3 Harriet_Riddell_4 Harriet_Riddell_5 Harriet_Riddell_6 Harriet_Riddell_7 Harriet_Riddell_8

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12 thoughts on “Our portrait sewn up by Harriet Riddell

  1. How utterly cool! Janene, free machine embroidery is SO MUCH FUN. I did Santa’s sleeves with it and I just quilted a Very Hungry Caterpillar quilt free hand, drawing in things he ate in the story. Given what a talented artist you are, I think you would just fall in love with the techniques. You just need to drop your dog feed (or put a plate over it) and use the little embroidery foot and tada!!

  2. So cool! I actually bought my machine originally to do machine embroidery (but got hooked on garment sewing in the meantime). There’s a book called I think All Sewn Up by chloe owens and she shows how to do portraits from photos using applique and machine embroidery

  3. OMG, how the hell is that even possible??? That woman is crazy talented, and what a fun thing to have on your wall! Totally want one 🙂
    (I once tried to freehand a little flower to use as a me-made-tag….it took and hour and came out shit.)

  4. Oh My Goodness, this is gorgeous!!! I have a few books on thread art and sewing painting and find it so beautiful. I think I’m going to definitely try my hand at it in the new year. I don’t expect to be nearly as good as Harriet Riddell, but I think it looks like fun, anyway.

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